The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 31, 2012

Assessing risks to keep community safe, justify funding

MANKATO —  

When Homeland Security officials are looking at risks for terrorism or natural disasters in southern Minnesota, they like to see things in numerical terms.

The storage facility for the Williams Pipeline and the Highway 14 bridge over the Minnesota River might get a 2.75 or maybe a 3.2.

The numbers for Mankato’s water supply and sewer system could be a little higher, or maybe a little lower.

The threat of an animal activist group breaking into a dairy or hog farm and sending hundreds of cows or pigs wandering across Nicollet County’s rural roads would likely fall lower on the scale.

For Minnesota Department of Public Safety employees trying to explain to federal authorities what the real risks are in the Mankato area, those numbers help make things simple and consistent. But Grant Hosmer, DPS critical infrastructure coordinator, explained to a room full of area emergency managers that arriving at each number is really a complex process that requires their expertise.

After the first leg of a two-day training session was over Thursday, Eric Weller, Blue Earth County’s deputy emergency management coordinator, said he others were ready to do some math. Looking at the potential for disasters in counties surrounding Mankato, and how to deal with them if they occur, is nothing new, he said. So those at the meeting are ready to provide the state with the information it needs.

“We understand that, during a big event, we all have to work together because none of us have all the resources we would need in a serious situation,” Weller said. “It’s all about collaborations, identifying risks and applying what we know. Now we’re taking it to the next level.”

Before each risk number can be calculated, the potential risks have to be identified, Hosmer said. That’s where the state needs the most assistance from people who actually live in the area.

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